Thurgood Marshall College Fund Releases White Paper on Improving Degree Attainment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.


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Thurgood Marshall College Fund Releases White Paper on Improving Degree Attainment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Higher Education Experts Partner to Explore New Ways of Measuring Graduation and Retention Rates at HBCUs

NEW YORK – December 16, 2009 – Recent statistical reports scrutinize Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and indicate that graduation rates are substantially lower than majority institutions. To that end, a consortium of higher education experts converged to begin dialogue on creating a comprehensive measure to assist HBCUs in developing meaningful action plans to increase academic achievement among low-income students of color.

The distinguished higher education contributors include:

•    Dwayne Ashley- President and CEO, Thurgood Marshall College Fund
•    Dr. Marybeth Gasman, Associate Professor of Higher Education, University of Pennsylvania
•    Dr. Ronald Mason, President, Jackson State University
•    Dr. Mary Sias, President, Kentucky State University
•    Dr. George Wright, President, Prairie View A & M University

Based on their findings exemplified in the white paper entitled, Making the Grade: Improving Degree Attainment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the contributors concluded the following highlights:

•    Using six-year, first-time, full-time, bachelor’s degree completion rates as the only measure of institutional performance does not address the unique role or longstanding mission of HBCUs.

•    HBCUs enroll a large proportion of part-time, transfer, and low-income students as well as those who stop in and out of college due to life circumstances. These students’ degree completion simply doesn’t register on a six-year graduation yardstick.

•    Traditional measures provide little insight into what factors influence lower graduation rates and what measures can contribute most effectively to higher graduation rates.

•    While the nation expects HBCUs to retain and graduate students equal to their counterparts, they fail to acknowledge the “academic” challenges public HBCUs face in enrolling a disproportionate number of ill-prepared students from public schools in economically distressed communities versus students from well-endowed public and private schools in economically vibrant communities.

•    The lack of access to Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate programs, physics and pre-calculus courses, which are closely associated with academic success—create nearly insurmountable academic challenges for the students HBCUs serve.

•    The wealthiest school districts in the nation spend 56 percent more per student than the poorest school districts.

•    African-Americans constituting 6.1 percent of students taking AP examinations in 2008 compared with 5.8 percent in 2007.

•    New, more comprehensive measures will assist HBCUs in developing meaningful action plans to increase academic achievement among low-income students of color.




“Traditional graduation rate measures, which result in lower overall rates for HBCUs than historically white institutions simply do not reflect either the unique educational challenges or significant accomplishment of HBCUs,” said Dwayne Ashley, President and CEO, Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “They provide little analysis or insight into what factors contribute most strongly to lower graduation rates and which can most effectively contribute to higher graduation rates of success.”
 
“It is important that organizations like the Thurgood Marshall College Fund help HBCUs find ways to accurately illustrate our successes,” said Dr. George Wright, President, Prairie View A & M University. “This white-paper describes some our challenges in the area of graduation rates, but also gives schools like Prairie View A&M University an opportunity to focus on our strengths.”

HBCUs have a history of serving underserved and nontraditional students, which places the institutions at a disadvantage when compared to other colleges under the six-year graduation rate standard,” said Dr. Mary Sias, President, Kentucky State University.

The goal of the consortium is to reconceptualize the way graduation rates are measured to give a clearer picture of institutional performance. To view the white paper, visit: www.thurgoodmarshallfund.org.

DOWNLOAD WHITE PAPER HERE